Welcome back adoring fans and fellow make up junkies! I hope this post finds you well and ready to dive into the crazy world of make up brushes! What I wanted to do for this post was cover some of the essentials that most people have in their kits for make up. This is one of those “one size does not fit all” departments- but I’ll try to be as high level as possible to give you a sense of what you might be looking for when you are building your kit. I wanted to cover all the brushes in one fell swoop- but unfortunately I just talk to much- and it would be way to long and no one would read it- so I cannot. Today we just stick to foundation tools.
If you’re new to make up- I’ll say (first- welcome and second I’m sorry!!!) but on a broad level make up falls into two categories- base make up and eye make up. ( I don’t really consider skin care make up- but if you do- then three categories). We are sticking with those groupings and not discussing skin care because A. I have an embarrassingly bad skin care routine and B. there aren’t a lot of tools for application. This leaves us with base and eye make up categories. I’ll cover brushes more or less in the order in which I do my own make up. There is no right way this just happens to be how I do it. Some people do eyes first- I do base first then eyes- dancers choice.
First up foundation tools! Interestingly enough- in almost all make up brush sets- you get this fucking absurd looking flat paddle brush- that absolutely NO ONE should be using for foundation. These jobbers- they just aren’t that great: so pitch them or use them for painting your holiday DIY gifts. ( I use mine for concealer when I can’t find my actual concealer brush.)
They just aren’t that great and they tend to leave streaky finishes on the skin. SO. what does that mean? Thanks to a booming make up market there are tons of brushes available- some aren’t even brushes at all! Or you can always use the old fashioned way and do your foundation by hand. yes. You can. If you use foundation- you can do it by hand. (again- clean hands) SondjaDeluxe does hers all by hand and she looks fucking flawless all the time. If you’re not down for using your hands- some sort of buffer brush, flat top kabuki, or one of those new fancy angled foundation brush is super helpful. I personally like to use a two step process- I use some sort of buffer then followed up by a sponge (if I have time). This is NOT necessary but I like the finish it gives me for performances.
Sponges! The original beauty sponge was the Beauty Blender and it was revolutionary -now they have many types and sizes from many brands- and people have busted out with silicon pads, vegetables- and all sorts of weird things-but a regular budget sponge is fine. Beauty Blender itself retails around 20, but Real Techniques Sponge (s) online or at Target (although you can get this in many local stores like Ulta, Walgreens, TJ Maxx sometimes or reliable Amazon) for $4.89. Ecotools, Wet N Wild, E.L.F Flower and many others make their own variation- and for under 10$ it’s well worth trying a few out. Remember to wash them (I spray with vodka water to help sanitize then throw them away fairly often because they get skuzzy FAST) these are for “pouncing” and dabbing. – no no that kind of dab- like pounce pounce- bounce bounce on your face dab. Not buffing- not streaking- but pouncing. Can be used wet or dry depending on the product (usually damp is recommended but not always)
Foundation brushes- if you use any sort of cream product- you’re probably looking for one of these- these are NOT aimed for mineral powder foundations- which probably aren’t going to be what a performer reaches for anyway- but as a general disclaimer- these aren’t really aimed for that product. (more on that later). The following are some of my personal favorite base brushes- I tried to stick with budget brands because they are more approachable and if you don’t have a full kit and you’re looking to pick up several pieces this gives you more flexibility than buying one high end brush.
Real Techniques Expert Face Brush at Ulta or Target for $8.99- These are smaller and designed for buffing- not streaking or dabbing- lightly smaller and take a little more work to apply product since they are smaller dense brush- but can create a great finish.
Bionic Flat Top Buffer Coastal Scents retails 10.95 (but you can usually get it for 7 with a sale. Softer with more give b/c of the nature of the slightly less densely packed and longer bristles.
This is a triangular shaped brush – both the Real Techniques Instapop brushes are shaped in this triangular densely packed dome shape. I think they are pretty good for contouring and foundation. I’m still working out my personal opinion on this shape- but it IS unique and this ELF product is extremely well made. I do something between a dab and a buff with this brush and get a decent finish.
Real Techniques Stippling Brush Amazon for $9.19- I had a hard time finding this in person- but the stippling brush is pretty great- I’ve tried a few and it’s one of my favorites- I was very sad when mine died after a good 6 years of abuse. this is for stippling- and swirling- less buffing- so more dabbing- and a slightly buff- but not full blown buffing.
Concealer brushes- I think a finger or sponge application works well here- and you don’t need anything super specific (I sometimes use just a blender brush because I’m lazy). So keeping it high and tight- I’d pass on a specific brush if you’re just trying to build your set.
Cream contour: I am also skipping specific brushes for this- because I think creams are harder to work with and if you’re looking for foundation face brushes- a cream contour isn’t necessary- and we are going for high level- we can come back if people have questions!
Powder Brushes- this is one of the essentials for me- even if you are doing light weight make up- some sort of good powder brush is a must for my collection. These are larger- more fluffy brushes- and are typically a little more expensive because of the volume of bristles and larger handle. I think I decent powder brush is essential for daily make up AND gig make up. Plus- honestly- they are just fluffy and soft and wonderful to touch- so that’s good enough for me 😉 Type on using these: typically with setting powder brushes the application is a press- not a swirl- it helps set the product better with out producing streaks.
Real Techniques Powder Brush at Target for 8.99 (this is my daily brush)
Elf Beautifully Precise Powder Brush Target for 12.00 (I actually use this more for bronzer- but it’s perfect for powder too (I’ve only owned this for maybe 2 months and I ADORE IT)
Wet N Wild powder brush for 2.99- on line or in Walgreens
And this is a great option as well that I don’t personally own: EcoTools at Target for 7.99 (But honestly I’m a sucker for a giant powder brush- after writing this post I have a list of 5 more brushes I want and absolutely DO.NOT.NEED)
Again- all under 15$ and great options I use them regularly. If you’re feeling saucy- the Morphe Large Dome Powder Brush one can be ordered and I can personally vouch for it’s loveliness- but it is a more pricey 20$
Moving on- Blush/Contour/Bronzer
I use any and all of the following- usually for gigs- because of the heavier product application I typically do split them up- but there is no reason you *have* to. For daily use I typically use the same brush with a good hand dust between products. Ultimately what you’re looking for is a medium sized semi dense brush that will diffuse product on your cheeks- shaped brushes, fan brushes or powder like brushes can all do this-so don’t get TOO excited about not having the *perfect* one for this. A larger brush more round shape creates a more diffused look where as a more tuliped shape brush will help do some contouring and give control for product placement. (downside- if you’re too heavy handed- you wind up looking like you got blush from your mom in the 80’s- which is a choice- no judgement). Honestly a large variety of brushes can fill this gap- as long as you have SOME tool for bronzing/blushing brush- you’re fine.
Real Techniques Blush Brush on Amazon for $5.19- I use this brush constantly- it’s hands down one of my favorite blusher and I’d probably replace it immediately if something happened to it.
Real Techniques Duo Fiber Collection– this is a kit of 3- and I use all of them in the kit regularly- so I recommend them as a whole- but specifically because the larger brush works extremely well for blush/bronzer. The kit retails for $18.99 on Amazon. I use this one almost daily.
Japonesque Blush Brush– retails for about 15$ at Ulta. This is *not* at the top of my list. It is VERY light weight- and I prefer a more weighted handle and a more dense brush- BUT it does give you a nice blended light application of bronzer or blush- so it’s not a bad choice- it’s just not my first choice.
Wet N Wild Blush brush- SUPER affordable in stores and on Amazon retails for $1.30 to $3 depending on when and where you get it- it’s a little bit more like a kabuki in that it’s fairly dense and shorter bristles- so I don’t recommend this brush for heavier darker shades- but it is great for buffing blush. Again- it’s not one of my absolute favorites- but for the price point- it’s great for lighter shades and buffing blush.
ECO TOOLS– I do not actually have this one- but I do like their products and this is very affordable coming in just at $3.99 on Amazon. And its sustainable and vegan/cruelty free. (WIN) so I don’t have any issue recommending it as an option. It’s similar to the Wet N Wild brush above- again they are vegan/cruelty free – so great option for those who are looking for that in a product.
Coastal Scents Fan Brush- and I cannot actually find this on their site unfortunately- but it’s a larger duo fiber brush- and I love it for doing blush and bronzer- it just gives a really wonderful diffused air brush look to the product that I LURV. A larger looser bristled fan brush is actually a great way to diffuse product on the cheek and helps give you a nice effortless contoured look- so don’t count them out!
If you trying to really condense- what I recommend as “the most efficient does it all” brush- this is the one I recommend the most. The high end is the Becca “the one perfecting”brush- it retails for 49$ at Sephora. Elf of course makes a much more affordable vegan synthetic Ultimate Kabuki for a whopping 10$. Is it as nice as Beccas? Probably not. But IMHO is the Becca one 5 times nicer? not likely. Especially for a brush that isn’t likely to be a swiss army knife tool for your kit- yes it’s a great brush- but it’s more for travel and quick make up looks. I use mine a lot for personal travel.
Next Up Highlighter:- highlighter is one of those products that I feel really came into it’s own in the last few years- we mortals who were not professionals didn’t really know about this magical product. It just hasn’t been a thing. And finding a highlighter in the drug store was practically impossible- they just didn’t exist other than the occasional frosty eye shadow you could substitute. How you apply highlighter depends on the product- most people who are not as familiar stick to powders- they are more forgiving and flexible to work with than creams or liquids. So for the purposes of this as it’s high level- we too shall stick with powders and brushes!
Real Techniques fan brush: this unfortunately comes in a kit and retails for 8.99 at Target or Amazon but comes with the below mentioned setting brush- and a buffing contour brush should you want (I use mine for cream contour). this is a great highlight topper- really specifically and gracefully applies product to high points- if you’re looking for all over bam glow- you probably want one of the tulip brushes below- but for a nice dusting- this is a great diffusing product for powder highlighters.
Elf Blush Brush– This $3.00 brush is quiet frankly WAY to tiny to be a blush brush- unless it’s very casual day look- it’s not enough brush to really pack on blush. BUT- being said it’s a beautiful brush for a base highlighter. I use it for my main highlighter ALL.THE.TIME. It’s soft- the bristles aren’t too dense- they have enough length to diffuse product- and it’s not so big you get highlighter on all the rest of your face- it’s a brilliant brush across the board.
Morphe Brushes: One of Morphe’s big claims besides being affordable professional brushes- has been sporting an impressive range of brushes that either multi-tasked- or were bang on for highlight. Two superb selections would be the Morphe 509 and the Morphe Y14 pointed blender and the pro detail highlighter. If you want to get really specific and layering- and you might want to look into some more brushes for detailing- but for most people- you can get away with just one good brush that creates a nice base layer and then just build it up. If you’re feeling adventurous you can go shop Morphe’s entire highlighter selection since they have a whole page dedicated to different brushes! (This is my personal favorite if I’m being totally honest- I mean- I love all my brushes equally… cough cough)
Real Techniques Setting Brush this retails for just under 4$ (Target also carries) I have two of these- and I usually use them for setting my under eye and for powder contour- BUT- it can be used for highlighting. I think it doesn’t have enough give with the bristles – as it’s a fairly structured brush so I do not personally use it for highlighting- if you have nothing else- or bought one of the kits it comes in- this can substitute in a minute for a highlight brush.
Wet N Wild Tapered Highlighting Brush I don’t have this brush but I’m totally down for getting it should I stumble across it- I personally haven’t seen it in the stores- but I’d definitely buy it- it looks really nice and that it’s the appropriate shape for highlighters. and coming in at $5.99 I wouldn’t hesitate to pick it up. (Side note- Amazon will deliever this the day I post this- I’ll update later after I use it- I couldn’t help myself)
My informal poll from my fellow dancers for “deserted island tool most needed” was a toss up between good TWEEZERS, and a synthetic angled brush. I have no suggestions for tweezers- I think I use a Revlon pair and they work great for me- use what you love. I do have recommendations on angle brushes.
I personally use this Maybelline one- it’s a shorter version of this MAC one- both of which are excellent- and honestly- a sharp angled synthetic brush is essential for a good sharp wing and a good sharp brow. Maybelline can be found almost anywhere- the only link I could find for it was this Kmart one– for $5.99 but almost all drug stores carry them. I dislike the gel liner that came with it- but I do like the brush.
Target sells this Sonia Kashuk Angle Brush for $11 and they are quality products and affordable. These two MAC angled brushes the 263 or the 266 is a little pricer at $20 but both are reliable and come well recommended.
A word about kits. I am not crazy about kits. As I mentioned frequently you get extra brushes you don’t use- so I don’t always think they are the best options- but there are a few smaller scaled down kits I would think are reasonable to consider:
These are well rounded- through out and useful for almost anyone who loves doing eye make up. They come from make up artists who do make up for themselves and for other people and they were one of the first people to start making reliable professional quality tools for the average person .
Real techniques Highlight and Glow kit: This 20$ kit can be found at Target or Amazon and contains a fluffy powder brush, a more compact blending brush and a tiny fan brush- if you don’t want to buy individual brushes- this can fit the bill right off the bat. And the great thing about real Techniques kits- is they keep them small- usually only 3-4 brushes- so you don’t wind up buying a bunch of brushes you don’t use (those full 20 piece kits- almost always have at least 2 brushes you NEVER.EVER.USE.)
Sonia Kashuk 10 Piece Collection is super solid- doesn’t have a lot of extranious tools and has all the right essentials to do a whole basic face.
Some final thoughts on foundation brushes- there is not any one single right way to achieve a great base. Really the only solution is to practice- A LOT. You do not NEED a whole full kit of top end $50 brushes- certainly they are nice but there are tons of available affordable options to help you build your kit and get the most out of your make up products. And the reality is- you may need to build up to a few because one just isn’t enough. Foundations are all different and skin is all different and some times one product works great is AWFUL for other people. Fortunately or unfortunately- there is some trial and error that has to go into this, but my hope is for you this just gives you a well rounded look at some of the essentials and gives you a direction if you were feeling lost about brushes and how to go about upping your make up game as an artist and performer.
The tools make just as much of a difference as the product and the application. Practice and decent tools that are good for the job will help. Hopefully this guides you with your shopping and clears up some questions about brushes. Please let me know if you have any questions or comments please leave them below! I love to hear from you all!
And to wrap up- here’s a shot of my collection that I just unpacked from my bag from a trip where I wasn’t sure I was dancing or not. I can get a great look out of my products with these- I could probably reduce down by one- possibly two if need be- but if I have the room this is my “go to” full kit for my face. foundation, powder, bronzer/contour, blush and highlighter.
And that’s a wrap- if you’ve made it this far- congratulations- you’re a real dedicated student or are stalking my make up brush collection- either way- good job! Hope you enjoyed- leave a comment below if you have a question and if not- till next time fearless costumers!